One of the most generally grown veggie plants is the tomato. Tomatoes are very versatile and nutritious. From stew, salsas, ketchup, juice to consuming them fried, they are an excellent addition to the dinner table, particularly when you can open a can of homegrown tomatoes for a dish in the winter. But can tomatoes grow in indirect sunlight?
As a general rule, tomatoes grow in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 – 6.8. Also, tomato plants require full sun, which means the more sunlight they receive, the better they perform. It is best to ensure your tomato’s planting site receives at least 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Also, too much sunlight, especially during a dry spell, will make your tomato plants thirsty and slow down fruit-bearing.
Read on to find out how much direct sunlight tomato plants need and the best ways to provide more. We will also discuss what happens when tomato plants get too much sunlight and how to prevent this issue.
Table of Contents
Can Tomatoes Grow In Indirect Sunlight?
Tomatoes (Solanum Lycopersicum) are traditionally warm-weather plants, which produce poorly in low-light conditions. They need a minimum of six hours to produce fruit; however, eight or more hours of sun will have the highest yield.
In addition, light for a tomato plant is so essential because tomato plants convert sunlight into energy. Tomato plants need the energy to produce their fruit. Therefore, the more sunlight they receive, the more energy they have and the more fruit they produce.
Ideally, all gardeners would have a garden site with six to eight hours of sunlight per day if you are among those gardeners who struggle to find sunny locations for growing tomatoes.
But can tomatoes grow in indirect sunlight? Tomato plants will always grow best with lots of direct sunlight; about 6 to 8 hours per day is adequate. Tomato plants may still produce fruit with less sunlight; however, they will not be as productive. If growing indoors, tomato plants can grow without direct sunlight if you provide the proper artificial light.
Tomatoes prefer bright light and warm temperatures. Tomato plants grow strong and healthy when they get full sun for most of the day, found the University of New Hampshire Extension.
Tomatoes originated in Central and South America and are classified as warm-season vegetables. They flourish in warm weather with about eight or more hours of full sunlight and warm soil. And they are primarily miserable when the temperatures are cold or even just cool, according to Michigan State University.
Tomato plants require full sun, which means the more sunlight they receive, the better they produce. Ohio State University recommends that the garden receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. And, tomatoes will not be as productive if they receive less than optimum sunlight exposure.
Stronger sunlight and a longer duration of the sun will help the plants grow larger and faster and support more fruit.
Can Tomatoes Be Grown In Shade?
In general, tomato plants will be less productive if they grow without optimal sunlight. Tomato plants are not shade-tolerant, and they prefer full sun, about 6 to 8 hours or more of direct sunlight per day.
Tomatoes can grow in indirect sunlight depending on how long they are exposed and how intense it is. But tomatoes will grow better and produce more with at least some direct sunlight. They favor full sun, about 6 to 8 hours or more of direct sunlight per day.
Tomatoes require maximum sun exposure, and they will need about 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, so plan to plant your tomatoes in the sunniest parts of your garden.
Determinate Vs Indeterminate Tomato Plants
- Determinate tomato plants make sumptuous patio tomatoes because they reach a specific height and stop growing. Also, they typically set all their fruit within a couple of weeks once they mature.
- Indeterminate tomato plants continuously grow and produce more fruit. These varieties of tomatoes do better if they are staked and in a raised bed or, even better yet, an in-ground garden with more space.
Shade Tolerant Tomato Varieties
- Beefsteaks are large, meaty tomatoes and are excellent for sandwiches. However, they take a little longer to mature than their smaller cousins. The UC Master Gardener Program recommends the heirloom Russian ‘Black Krim’ variety in cool, foggy areas, a dark indeterminate plant that takes just 75 days to mature. However, it won’t reach its most whole, darkest color with less heat and sun, but it will still produce tasty fruit.
- Grape, pear, and cherry tomatoes tend to be perfect for patio and apartment gardening. Because cherry tomatoes fruit quickly, you can plant them in areas that receive a lot of shade early and late in the season.
- Black Cherry is a disease-resistant choice that fruits in just 65 to 75 days.
- If you have plenty of room and are looking for a yellow fruit in about 75 days, choose the German heirloom ‘Blondkopfchen.
- If your light conditions are minimal, consider the indeterminate red ‘Stupice,’ a cold tolerant and flavorful Czech tomato, which typically produces between 52 to 65 days.
- Paste tomato (AKA plum tomatoes) is a versatile, dense fruit, perfect for salads, canning, or sauce. However, they take a little while to develop. Mama Leone tomatoes are the best choice for foggy weather or dim lighting.
|Shade Tolerant Tomato Varieties||Varieties|
|Grape, pear, and cherry tomatoes||Black Cherry Isis Candy CherryEvans Purple PearIldi (Yellow)Golden SweetVernissage YellowPrincipe Borghese (Red)Juliet Hybrid (Red)|
|Plum and Paste||Mama Leone (Red) San Marzano (Red)Redorta (Red)Roma (Red)|
|Classic Round Tomatoes||Arkansas Traveler (Deep Pink)BeautyViolet Jasper (Purple with Green Stripes)Belize Pink Heart (Deep Pink) Carmello (Red)Early Wonder (Dark Pink) Siberia (Red)Golden Sunray Marglobe (Red) Green Zebra Tigerella (Reddish-Orange with yellowish-green Stripes)|
|Beefsteak Type Tomatoes||Black Krim Cherokee Purple Paul Robeson (Brick red to black) White QueenGold Medal Hillbilly (Yellowish-orange with red streaks)|
Can Tomatoes Grow In Afternoon Shade?
Direct sunlight at different times of the day affects tomatoes plants differently.
Morning sunlight is less intense compared to sunlight coming later in the day. However, morning sunlight provides tomatoes plants with a high-intensity light with no excess heat than noon sunlight and afternoon heat.
Midday sunlight comes up between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is brightest, overhead, and hottest. Sometimes, you might need to choose between bright sunlight and excessive heat. In extreme cases, you might need to protect your tomatoes plants from the midday sun.
Noonday sunlight is when the sunlight is scorching, and the sun’s rays at this time might be intense for the tomato plants. The sun’s intensity at this time varies from place to place.
At noon, shades are required to shield the plant from the stress of the sunlight. You can strategically place shade cloths or sunflowers to offer the tomato plants relief from the intense noonday sunlight.
Afternoon sunlight happens when the sun has begun to set from its overhead position. It is usually more intense than morning sunlight but not as strong as midday sunlight. In places where the mercury rises in the afternoon, several hours of exposure to the morning sunlight would be highly beneficial to the tomato plants.
The afternoon sun is the second-best sunlight required by the tomato plants because it is not as harsh as the noonday sunlight. It starts after 2 p.m. and is well desired by growing tomato plants.
What Happens If Tomatoes Don’t Get Enough Sun?
Tomatoes plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight to perform well. Indirect or dappled sunlight is adequate to keep the plants alive; however, they will be stunted and likely not produce much fruit. Your tomatoes plants will be using most of their energy just to develop foliage and root systems.
Reproduction (flowers and then fruits) may come later in the season. It would be best if you found another place to grow tomatoes; they are not shade-loving plants.
Overall, tomatoes can grow in direct and indirect sunlight but would not flourish in indirect sunlight as they would in direct light.
Growing tomatoes in indirect sunlight will deprive them of the chance to make their energy from sunlight, enabling them to thrive and produce good fruits.